I’ve still got it

My younger siblings are now well beyond the toddler range, and I have no children of my own. Somehow, several of my friends have acquired children before me. When I’m around them, I discover that I have latent kid-skills that I never quite realized I was developing–sixths senses for kids falling, climbing, or spilling; translating abilities; reflexive face cleanings, shoe-tyings, and drink-pourings. . .and the ability to scare the bejeepers out of them. (Not really. But how to say a ‘no’ that works.)

One toddler was attempting to eat batteries, and my friend requested that at the next attempt someone besides herself to interject a severe warning. I complied; in a voice I’d forgotten I’d cultivated–deep, clear, firm, severe– I said, “Hey! No!” She jerked back from the batteries, startled and alarmed, and backed up till she was closer to me. She didn’t touch them again.

It happened again today. A different toddler was pouting that he couldn’t eat fist fulls of cookies, and made to shove his real lunch on the floor. Caught in the habit of helping three different other children at once, and seeing the precarious plate of food, I again declared, “Hey! No!” He, too, startled and backed up toward me, plate still full of food.

These are the things that I don’t know you teach or how you learn. How do you tell someone how to cultivate a simple tone of voice that gets results–one that stops the offending behavior without alienating the child? I don’t know how I did. I remember it working for me for years, and never much thinking of it. I’ve clearly rediscovered that I’ve still got it. I’ve never had a child I told “no!” not want to come and snuggle in my lap, and I’ve rarely had to say “no!” to toddlers more than once on the same activity.

So apparently I’ve got skillz. And yet so few opportunities to use them. There are days that seems more than a little unfair. . .but I am learning new skills every day, even when I don’t realize it. Some day, I’m going to wake up and be surprised by that, too.

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